Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower they were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel —because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
In Genesis 1 & 2 we read of humankind being wondrously created to reflect the nature of God. Created as “image bearers” humanity is to represent what God is like and is charged to go into all the world, to scatter, to fill the earth, to multiply and to enjoy God’s gift of life.
Sin interrupts the story and humanity falls short of representing God as they were intended to. By the time we get to Genesis 11, things are pretty out of kilter.
Rather than scattering into all the world, being fruitful, increasing in number, tending, developing, ordering, creating and reflecting the nature of God; humankind is united in purposes contrary to God’s will. Humans have set out to build their own self serving empire. They want to make a name for themselves by building a giant monument that reaches to the heavens, something that in any era requires an incredible amount of energy, finance, resource and effort. Likely the tower will be built through the oppression of others. This story tells us of humanities pride and self-reliance. The use of handmade bricks and tar rather than more naturally occurring stones and mortar made of mud suggests a move away from the providence of God in creation. The tower meets no need and is simply a self fulfilling monument to humanism.
God however does an incredible thing. God confuses their speech. Rather than have humanity united towards its own ends, ends contrary to God’s will, God creates disunity. Different people groups with their distinct languages begun to unite as one – but apart from the "other." Humanity begins to scatter and disperse throughout the earth.
In disrupting, interrupting and bringing confusion of language God ultimately moves humanity back towards his will that humankind would scatter throughout all the earth. Now at least humanity has the potential to represent God in all the earth. The only thing is; they are now divided in language and identity.
While originally all of humankind was meant to represent God and indeed all of humanity are still image bearers, God now chooses a family (Abraham’s) and a nation (Israel) to represent him specifically. In time Jesus comes, fully human and fully divine; the perfect representative of God to the world. Jesus preaches and teaches regarding the Kingdom of God, talks about grace and love and forgiveness and reconciliation to God. Jesus’ lays down his life on the cross as an example of love, as a ransom and atonement for our sin. Jesus is resurrected victorious over sin and death.
To be continued...